A defining year for Northampton

Northampton town centre is in the midst of its ‘Big Six’ multi-million pound transformation says commercial property agent Prop-Search, with the next 12 months being a defining period in which new local landmarks will start to rise.

The first of the ‘Big Six’ schemes is the Northampton ‘Castle’ Railway Station project. This will provide an iconic gateway to the town, offering better facilities, capacity and station services. During 2013, work on the £20m development commenced, with later phases of the development to include a 1,270 space multi-storey car parking and a 300,000 sq ft commercial scheme. West Northamptonshire Development Corporation is investing £10m in the station, while other parties including Network Rail and Northamptonshire County Council are meeting the remainder of the development costs.

St Peter’s Waterside marks a new beginning for the town’s waterside area, stretching from the land opposite Northampton Castle Station to the town centre gasholders. It will include landmark office development and cranes will become visible on the skyline in 2013/14 with both demolition and construction works starting on site. To deliver this scheme there has been a number of compulsory purchaser orders and a capital investment of £6.4m. The Innovation Centre, which is being delivered with the University of Northampton will signal the start of commercial development.

The Avon Nunn Mills scheme is expected to breathe new life into the brownfield sites which includes a derelict factory that was previously occupied by Avon Cosmetics, as well as a disused power station. Historically, development plans have been hampered by complex land ownership, infrastructure and remediation issues, however following a deal in 2012, the University of Northampton will develop a £330 campus on the site.

The proposed redevelopment of the Grosvenor Shopping Centre will provide a modern retail experience in the town centre, however, this will not be possible until the Greyfriars Bus Station is demolished. Construction of the new Bus Interchange is already underway and discussions are continuing between Northampton Borough Council and Legal & General for redevelopment the Grosvenor Centre.

Northampton’s emerging cultural quarter, the St John’s scheme will include a new hotel and student accommodation complex. It is hoped that construction of the hotel will commence later this year, with a later phase including a new office development.

Neighbouring the St John’s scheme, Project Angel is a proposed major office development with the potential to accommodate 2,500 office workers. This would significantly increase footfall in central Northampton and therefore support the viability of nearby developments. Plans, likely to be submitted in a formal application early next year, will also include a new public square, acting as a gateway to the town centre.

The West Northamptonshire Development Corporation has been instrumental in all of these development schemes but will close down in March 2014, to be succeeded by local authority delivery arrangements. By that date, it will have invested over £100m in the development of West Northamptonshire with projects like the Becket’s Park Marina having started to make a visible impact. However, the full effect of its investment will no doubt be felt for years to come.

Alongside these regeneration projects, there has been a reasonable take up of existing commercial space, however as in previous years, the progression of the market has been hindered by the lack of quality supply.

This is demonstrated by the return of the ‘Built to Suit’ market – whereby developers are constructing new buildings to meet the individual occupier’s requirements as opposed to constructing buildings on a speculative basis – as would have occurred in better market conditions. In the poorest market conditions no buildings were being developed on either a speculative or design and build basis!

The most significant transaction to have been concluded this year in the town is the acquisition of a 16 acre site, with a freehold facility made up of a 64,000 sq ft cross-dock warehouse – as well as a 114,000 sq ft contract warehouse – which has a further 21,000 sq ft of office accommodation over two storeys at Brackmills. Dachser is acquiring the facility for a new integrated logistics centre – contracts have been signed and the project is expected to be completed in March next year.

Once again the key to Northampton’s future development will be the unlocking of key sites for development within the all commercial sectors.